Bad ass + Bright minds = New Models, New Ways

About 6 months ago a group of librarians – really, a rather motley crew if I may say so – decided to pull together a weekend at which people would meld ideas for new service models, products and operating models. What would we call it? a hive mind? a shark tank? It was new. It was kinda messy. We needed new language. We needed a new approach.

Passion beats backing & experience (we hope):

The ‘organizers’ or,as some called us, the motley crew or misfits – are in Arizona, California, Washington, DC and, yes, Canada. With no corporate backing and miles apart we collaborated virtually (phone, Zoom, Skype, Hangouts). We had limited experience in launching any event. Yet we pooled our pennies, secured a kicking location and took a risk.

What do we have in common? Passion. We want to see our profession and the library sector we so love succeed in a world of AI.  We want to see the next generation of those passionate about libraries take it and transform it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Oh yeah – the other thing we now have in common is that we are laying awake at night worried we’ll lose our shirts on this venture. But we are all risk takers, and we are ready for another risk.

Sharks, thinkers, advisors & doers:

We decided to jump, launching Library Shark Tank October 12 – 14, 2018 @ the Asilomar beside the Pacific Ocean. 

We asked thought-leaders to join us, offering them nothing but the promise of lightning bolt conversations and good food. To top it off, we told them they have to pay their own way. Yet they are excited by this idea, and they jumped with us. Scott Hargrove, CEO @ Fraser Valley Regional Library System in BC; Laura Soto-Barra, Chief Research, Archives & Data Strategy at NPR; Todd Frager, CFO @ Library Systems & Services; Daniel Lee, Technical Program Manager for Enterprise Content @ Stikeman Elliott LLP; MJ D’Elia, Associate University Librarian (Research) @ University of Guelph, and more. Apologies to some of you whom I’ve missed.

Fresh air and hope:

Just when I began to think that we’d taken on too big a risk with this venture, I received an email that brought me sheer joy and showed me that we misfits are onto something with the Shark Tank. I’ve never met the individual who sent me this:

“Dear Rebecca,

What an amazing opportunity!  And such inspiring ideas! As an “old timer” (34 years), I’ve become a bit jaded by all the “woe is me” attitude among my peers.  I’ve always felt that the foundation of libraries is all about connecting with people, just our tools for that change over time. I don’t complain because my slide rule is no longer needed; I figure out how to use social media to get my answer.

I am excited to see there are people out there who see the long term potential of libraries.  Whoo-hoo for bringing these people together.

Though I feel that the energizing benefits of this gathering would be enormous, I’m certainly not a bad-ass librarian.  I will encourage bad-assedness from my staff and look forward to hearing what great ideas are generated.

Just a heartfelt thank you from an “old timer” who still loves her job, her library, and her patrons.  Thank you for the breath of fresh air and hope.”

I responded “Thank YOU for the breath of fresh air and hope!” I know from this email that there are more librarians and others passionate about libraries who will join us at the Asilomar in October.  People are sending in ideas they want to pursue. People are registering.  Is it expensive? Not really since it includes 6 meals and its located in a gem of a resort. And, it’s expensive to maintain and update our professional capabilities. Bloody hell, we are worth it every penny. Libraries are expensive enterprises and they are worth every penny for communities, campuses, corporations, journalists, democracy.

Some librarians have told us that they aren’t able to attend but would if their schedule allowed; if 3 librarians who can’t attend donated some funds we could sponsor more students or librarians who are early in their careers to attend. As it is we will sponsor at least one student to attend. We hope to sponsor more.

My idea:

What idea do I want to pursue? Well, I’m sitting in Halifax International Airport looking at the Halifax Public Library kiosk. It provides travellers physical books. My idea is to take this further — with digital readers to borrow (yes, like a kindle) onto which people can download any book or magazine they want, and a library staff on a Zoom or webconference screen providing readers advice, “if you liked Harry Potter, try Five Kingdoms; the book isn’t in this kiosk, but press the button to the left to download the digital version on the digital reader in the kiosk, and borrow the digital reader.” Am I crazy? Nah – I know another 2 or 3 librarians putting their heads together will take this idea and make it much much better. We’ll put our bad-asses together with our misfit minds and voila! New models, new ventures, new ways, sustained success for libraries.

What’s your idea?

Library Shark Tank: Entrepreneurs Take Ideas to Action

Do you have ideas about doing things differently in libraries? Want to develop the Uber for libraries? Tired of cliches at conferences and want to actually take a concept forward? Then come to the 1st Library Shark Tank and Hive Mind.  Join other thinkers, doers, misfits and bad-ass librarians at the Asilomar Conference Grounds right beside the Pacific Ocean near Monterey, CA October 12-14, 2018 – right before Internet Librarian.
It’s all in honor of Barbara Quint, a revolutionary librarian and information industry provocateur who died last year.  For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to know her, Barbara – BQ – was the editor of Searcher and Online Searcher, founder of SCOUG (the Southern California Online Users Group), a mentor, provocateur, cheerleader and queen of bad-ass librarians;  she loved pulling together kindred spirits, working on big ideas and disruptive possibilities that could move our sector forward.  BQ’s friends and colleagues decided there could be no more fitting way to honor her – and all the other wonderful librarians and info pros we’ve lost over the years — than to create a hive mind of fun-loving, free-thinking librarians and information professionals to design and do something meaningful for our profession and industry. #LibrarySharkTank is totally non-profit, non-commercial and funded by a bunch of BQ’s friends & people who believe we need to invest in our R&D. The fees are to cover the costs – that’s it.

A hive mind brings people together to share their collective intelligence and opinions as they create new possibilities. A shark tank has aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to investors for a chance to see their projects realized.   We’re switching it up for the library world.   You’ll be pitching big new ideas or projects for libraries to thrive in tomorrow’s world.  And instead of millionaires, you’ll pitch the concept to an audience of experienced library leaders and business professionals who are as hungry for good new ideas as you are.  Here are just a few of the ideas that have been submitted so far:  proposal for a combined library / bookstore so patrons can get the best of both worlds, proposal for a subscription reference service that would allow any library to offer its community access to a crack reference team on demand, proposal for a shared library catalog that would act like Goodreads for libraries.

Here’s the plan:
Arrive Friday afternoon, check into your room at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Grounds (designed by Julia Morgan, architect of Hearst Castle and first woman architect licensed in California) and @ 5:30 head to cocktails and dinner with colleagues from across the library sector – BQ events always included minds from academic, public, corporate, and government sectors as well as vendors and suppliers.  A hive needs minds with many perspectives.   After dinner, those of you who brought ideas will pitch them to the group.   Everyone will vote for the project team they want to work on, and the winning projects will move forward to the Shark Tank.

Saturday morning, we’ll hear from each of the Sharks about what what’s impacting the sector.   Then it’s down to work as you and your team members work to craft a winning proposal for the Sharks.  On Saturday night, more dinner and drinks and a special showing of Desk Set, one of BQ’s favorite films.

Bright and early Sunday morning we’ll have a good breakfast, and then each project team presents their proposal to the Sharks and the audience.   The winning proposal gets a full write-up in an Information Today publication … and a chance to be realized.   Sandwiched in between all of that will be a lot fun, jokes and good times – BQ believed that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy … and she did know ‘Jack’.

You don’t have to have a big idea to attend! You have a choice of either pitching a project or working on a project team.  You’ll meet some great contacts and potential mentors – and you’ll learn all about what taking an idea to concept, and crafting a winning proposal.  Are you a student enrolled in an iSchool or Masters of Information? Then submit your idea proposal – quick!  We will award one All Inclusive #LibrarySharkTank Package (travel/transportation not included) to the student with the best project idea proposal to be pursued @ the weekend.

Register here.  Prices range from $710 – $906 (depending on room type) which includes your room and meals for Friday night thru to Sunday lunch.  We think most of you will want to stay at the beautiful Asilomar, but if you’d prefer to stay offsite, the Registration fee for the Weekend is $375 and includes all meals on Saturday and Sunday.  And hurry! Registration is limited to keep the group manageable and once the slots are gone, they’re gone.   If you’re coming for Internet Librarian .. just come a little early for the Library Shark Tank – you’ll be glad you did – and the first at a new venture!

Many thanks and we look forward to seeing you there. Questions? Please contact or

Customers/Members/Clients Rule! Or Not!

Many years ago (mid 70s to early 90s) I worked for a large bank with nationwide branches in all major cities and most significant communities including Wawa, Ontario!  In those early days of my career bank branches and their staff were members of the community and they took care of the farmers, business people, and all members of their town. Bank staff tried to make things work for their customers. Customer centric before the words were de rigueur.

My experience yesterday at another large bank branch requires me to speak out (and vent) about customer service.  I have found over the last number of years that banks are making it harder and harder for individuals (especially seniors and those with limited time) to accomplish what they want at their bank in a short amount of time.  It seems banks want us to fit with their policies, technologies and efficiencies, whether it works for us customers or not. Well the last straw for me, yesterday, was when I went into my mother’s bank branch where she has been a customer for 60 years to cash a U. S. cheque as she has been doing for probably 30+ years.  “Sorry, we have no cash, we are only an advisory center now.  You can deposit the U. S. cheques in the banking machine at the door and take out Canadian cash.”  I want US cash.  Can you set up a U. S. account to which I can deposit and withdraw in U.S. cash? “Well, yes, but we will need to do a credit check (even tho’ my mum has $1000’s on deposit with them) if you don’t want 10 day holds on those cheques (who says digital is fast???)”  And they did but it took almost an hour!  Sigh, as I said customer service in banking is dead it seems to me, unless you want to do things their way.  However, I now have things set up so I never have to go to my mother’s branch again — so much for customer relationships!

This is so different from libraries, as I said in my last post about community hubs! In the 70’s many public libraries were not known for their customer service, they were often about rules and policies that were perhaps not customer centric.  Today the world has changed.  Public libraries (as well as other types of libraries) definitely engage all levels of their communities — from babies and youngsters (storytime) to teens (makerspaces, idea & innovation or media labs) to seniors (new tech, social discussions & lectures), civil dialogue sessions for adults and more!  Libraries are the hubs of their communities, they ARE customer centric (here’s an example of one library) , and they provide terrific customer service — they care, as once the banks and their staff did.  If your experience is different, or similar, let me know!

Hub for Community: All About Engagement!

More and more people are seeing libraries as hubs for community.  And there are many way of doing this — as key makerspaces like Fayetteville Free Library or Innovation Labs like Innisfil IdeaLab & Library, St. Petersburg Commuity College Innovation Lab, or  DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library.   Recently a retired teacher, colleague of my mother, sent me a note, “our local Midland library will let high school students have a private room for study during exams AND give them drinks and protein bars, etc. to keep them going. Our grade 10 granddaughter Maya and a small group of friends studied there each afternoon during exams. And by the way, you can sign out a fishing rod as well as all other regular library stuff. They’ve really made it a community hub.” Thanks Judy! Stories like this are now popping up in lots of places.  For instance, this two part series about the South Shore Public Libraries in Nova Scotia.  The first article, entitled Trust, Engagement & the Future of Libraries, refers to libraries as “the cornerstone of any community, a place to access endless resources for learning, a helping hand, a quiet place for self-reflection, access to amazing technology and social connections.”  The CEO and Community Engagement Manager discuss engagement, trust and the vision for libraries.  Here’s their strategic plan for 2027, In the second article, Storytelling – Community Driven News & History through Codex, they focus on storytelling, technology and how libraries can be the hub for community driven news and history.

So if you have a community engagement story to tell, regardless of the type library, please consider sharing your story as a speaker at Computers in Libraries 2019, March 26-28 in Washington DC.  Our theme is User Engagement in the Digital Age.

Human Face of Search: Danny Sullivan

Just read some great pieces about Danny Sullivan whom I’ve known since we, and the Internet, were young!  His good friend, and former colleague, Barry Swartz wrote about Danny’s role at Google where he landed last fall after retiring. CNBC’s Jillian D’Onfro writes about Danny’s role in reassuring people Google isn’t evil!

When I first knew Danny: “Sullivan is credited with popularizing the term “search engine marketing” and has been described as the father of the industry. His search career started in the mid-90s, when Yahoo owned the space and Google didn’t even exist. Sullivan was enthralled by the emerging web and quit his job in newspapers to join a friend’s web development company. He wrote his first guide to search engines in 1996.”

Since librarians have also been very interested in search for a very long time, Danny became a popular speaker at Information Today conferences, especially Internet Librarian. BTW, Google founders attended Internet Librarian in Monterey CA in it’s early days!

Danny himself says: “My personal mission statement is to provide reasonable explanations as issues come up…Not as an excuse but to help people understand why something happened. If something has gone wrong, we explain why it went wrong. Otherwise, people assume things that didn’t happen. It’s about taking ownership over an issue that comes up, understanding how we’re going to improve it, and then actually improving it.”

And learning from our mistakes, something else librarians are trying to do these days.  Learning from our successes, sharing those with each other, but also learning from our failures.  Always engaging our customers.  Librarians are among the most trusted people according to Pew research and Danny is helping Google in that regard too. Even if as Google Liaison he says, “We’re not a truth engine. One of the big issues that we’re pondering is how to explain that our role is to get you authoritative, good information, but that ultimately people have to process that information themselves… We can give you information, but we can’t tell you the truth of a thing.”

As Pual Edmonson, CEO of HubPages, says, “I think Danny always wanted to hold Google accountable in the right ways… I would gladly trade a journalist covering search for someone inside of Google who has empathy for people creating content for the web and who has the greater good of the ecosystem in mind.”

I say go, Danny, go and not just in a galaxy far, far away! Keep up your great work!


Cybersecurity: July 19/20 @ iSchool, University of Toronto

Coming up soon!  Get immersed in the things you need to know about keeping your organization, library, museum or home secure.  The line-up of experienced and knowledgeable speakers will answer all your questions.

What do you need to have in place to have a secure library? What do you libraries need to recommend to their clients so they are safer online? No matter what type of library, public institution, museum or community organization you are with, you need to be prepared and knowledgeable about cybersecurity. Join our knowledgeable practitioners and leaders in discussion about cybersecurity to up your game in your organization.

Key Topics covered:

Cybersecurity: Top Issues for Public Institutions with Bo Wandschneider,  CIO, U of T
What does it all mean?  What are the key parts we need to know about?

Top 10 Tips for Security Awareness Training
Tracy Z. Maleeff, aka @InfoSecSherpa, Cyber Analyst at GSK & Guest Editor, InfoSecurity Magazine

Greatest Organizational Exposures + Solutions
Frank Cervone, Director, IT & College Information Security Officer, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

Risk Assessment, Policies & Programs
Frank Cervone, Director, IT & College Information Security Officer, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago
Practitioners Panel: Top Cybersecurity Issues
Paul Takala, Chief Librarian/CEO,  Hamilton Public Library; Tracey Maleeff, cybersecurty analyst, GSK

The Dark Side: Privacy, Dark Web & Hacker Devices
Brian Pichman, Director, Strategic Innovation, Evolve Program

Cybersecurity Challenges & Solutions Forum
Brian Pichman, Director, Strategic Innovation, Evolve Program
A chance to ask any unanswered questions, share challenges and solutions, and discuss top of mind issues relating to cybersecurity.  Bring your own issues to share with participants and speakers.

Current Events Facilitated Discussion
Touches on Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, DNOS attacks, etc.

For more info & to register, click here.

Thought About Your Strategies Lately?

This article, Why Popular Strategies Fade, is a great reminder about strategies through the last 5 or 6 decades.  I am borrowing liberally from it!  “A great strategy is unique, specific, and complete; it stands on the shoulders of a big idea; and it is owned by a leader who is ultimately responsible for its implementation.”  “Great strategies answer five critical questions (“the strategic five”) in ways that are unique to your company: (1) What business or businesses should your company be in? (2) How should you add value to your businesses? (3) Who should be the target customers for your businesses? (4) What should be your value propositions to those target customers? (5) What capabilities should differentiate your ability to add value to your businesses and deliver their value propositions?”

With the speed of change in our world we need to ask ourselves these questions at least once a year as we set our path forward to change with the needs of our communities and with the opportunities provided by new technology.  We also need to grab those big ideas and opportunities when they pop up.  Libraries like to think they were at the heart of the “third place” movement, but Starbucks made it extremely successful. “Starbucks’s strategy to create a nationwide chain of coffee shops as a “third place” between office and home originated in Howard Schultz’s big idea to re-create the Italian espresso bar experience.” So what can we learn from them?

“Great strategies always go against the grain of accepted wisdom. Markets and organizations have powerful immune systems that erect multiple barriers to implementation. Leaders who own their strategies are more likely to persevere through such resistance, and prevail. Great strategies take leaders who believe enough in them — and the ideas they depend on — to be willing to fight their own organization and the broader market for however long it takes to realize the strategy…Larry Page and Sergey Brin sought to “organize the world’s information” with their idea to rank Web pages the way academic publications are ranked. They started Google because no one would buy their idea.”

Strategy can never stand still. A great strategy can quickly become mediocre in a dynamic market. You should always be seeking ways to open your eyes to new possibilities for your strategies. Strategy concepts are one such way if they stimulate your thinking without substituting for it, and if they enhance your strategy without becoming it. Those are two big ifs. To exploit strategy concepts without allowing them to take over, consider each one that comes along to be an opportunity to challenge and improve the strategy you already have. If you don’t already have a strategy to which you are truly committed, you are particularly vulnerable to being captured by the latest strategy fashion. If you do, ask how a new concept can enhance it. But never let that concept become a shortcut: a way to skip the hard work of identifying the big idea that will power your company’s strategy; of formulating a unique, specific, and complete set of answers to the “strategic five”; and of owning your strategy through thick and thin.”

Artificial Intelligence & Libraries: Prepare Yourself

A huge thank you to Lise Brin. Program Officer / Agente de programme @ Canadian Association of Research Libraries/Association des bibliothèques de recherche du Canada for compiling this list of pertinent, thought-jarring items on #artificialintelligence and the implication for #libraries.  We’ll be discussing this @ CFLA-FCAB’s National Forum, May 2nd in Regina (co-located with Sasktachewan’s Library Conference). Read, reflect, and ready yourself to provide input and inform the CFLA-FCAB Board for positioning libraries in the age of #AI.

1  How can Indigenous knowledge shape our view of AI? (Karina Kesserwan, Policy Options, February 16, 2018)


2.  Bias already exists in search engine results, and it’s only going to get worse (J. Snow, MIT Technology Review, February 26, 2018)

3.  Here’s how Canada can be a global leader in ethical AI (F. McKelvie & A. Gupta, The Conversation, February 22, 2018)


4.  Libraries in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Ben Johnson, Information Today, January 2018)

5.  Artificial intelligence and the library of the future, revisited (Catherine Nicole Coleman, Stanford Libraries Digital Library Blog, November 3, 2017)

6.  The Seven Deadly Sins of AI Predictions (Rodney Brooks, MIT Technology Review, October 6, 2017)

7.  Who Trained Your A.I.? (April Glazer, Slate, October 2017)


8.  The AI-Enhanced Library (Norman Jacknis, Medium, June 21, 2017)

9.  How libraries might change when AI, Machine learning, open data, block chain & other technologies are the norm (Aaron Tan, April 9, 2017)

10. What happens to libraries and librarians when machines can read all the books? (Chris Bourg, Feral Librarian, March 16, 2017)

11.  Libraries in an Artificially Intelligent World (Kristin Whitehair, Public Libraries Online, February 11, 2016)

12.  Thriving in the Age of Accelerations: A Brief Look at the Societal Effects of Artificial Intelligence and the Opportunities for Libraries (K. Arlitsch & B. Newell, Journal of Library Administration, 57:7, 2017)


Entrepreneurial Thinking: Essential Skill for Everyone!

It’s often difficult to describe things you do instinctively.  I once put together a panel of SLA members asking them to describe themselves by discussing ”how do I know what I know?”  SLA member Anne Mintz, at Forbes magazine at the time, told me it was one of the hardest things she had to do!  My business partner, Rebecca Jones, talks about me as being curious, I am but I just found a better description in a book by Amy Wilkinson, The Creator’s Code: Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs.   The first skill is one I have talked about in workshops I’ve done for SLA on seeing the big picture and strategic planning; Wilkinson calls it Finding the Gap and I had called it, Looking for Opportunities or identifying pain points and finding a solution.  Here’s what Wilkinson says:


By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts. I characterize creators who master these approaches as Sunbirds, Architects, or Integrators.

In innovating, reinventing, experimenting we do things differently, in a new way for our environment as a creator or entre/intrapreneur.  I find I learn a lot from others in other industries, organizations, etc.  One of the strengths of SLA has always been that those planning conference events bring in practitioners from their specialized fields so we learn from them and can apply their strategies and techniques in a new way in our environments – transplanting ideas across divides. This also happens at Information Today conferences whose programs I design and of which SLA is a prominent sponsor (Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian).  At these events we transplant ideas across different types of libraries.  Years ago as a special librarian, I didn’t believe I could learn anything from public and academic libraries; Ha!  It is amazing what public libraries do to engage their customers and how special librarians learn from them: i.e. setting up a Pokemon Go in a government library, setting up makerspaces/innovative places spaces in a corporate workplaces, creating book clubs in organizations.

As an entrepreneur and consultant, I am always looking for new ways to move forward and create new designs that will engage our audiences and clients.  Focusing on what might be ahead, creating visions, looking a differences scenarios, giving people something to think about when they consider the future and how their organization or library has to evolve to keep up.  For example, take my granddaughter Logan who is now a year and a half old.  What will her life be like as a young adult?  Consider that she may never learn to tie a shoelace (as there is now Velcro & new types of laces), she may never learn to drive (now that driverless cars are coming online), she may never learn cursive writing since everything is done with computers today, more and more by using our voices!  So if these types of kids are our future clients, what should we be planning in terms of programs and services to stay relevant?

And certainly mashing things up to try different approaches to programs and services is happening everywhere, especially with content and new tech tools: using Paper Li to create a current awareness product on the fly, using bots to reduce repetitious activities, creating online tutorials which can be watched at the point of need or “in the flow” as APQC calls it.

Entrepreneurial thinking is for everyone in every environment.  Do it by keeping an open mind, observing different organizations and places, listening, grabbing ideas from others and trying them out (experimenting), paying attention when someone has a problem/criticism because there is definitely an opportunity/gap there!

Libraries Matter. A National Voice Matters. CFLA-FCAB Matters.

Look out. I’m passionate about this. And I’m concerned at the quiet surrounding CFLA-FCAB: Canadian Federation of Library Associations. Quiet means no one is paying attention. Quiet means no one is talking. Quiet means no one is debating, prompting, urging, moving forward. Quiet means those who are louder about certain issues will be heard. Bring your voice.

Alix-Rae Stefanko, new Chair of CFLA-FCAB, is phenomenal, and she’s leading the charge for the National Forum, May 2nd in Regina. Come – join us – inform our national thinking, positioning and policies on intellectual freedom and artificial intelligence.

Join us in Regina, Saskatchewan, for our first National Forum to be held May 1 – 2, 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Conference Centre, 1975 Broad Street, Regina; the opening reception is the evening of  May 1 and the National Forum is May 2. The National Forum program is designed to blend informative sessions with challenging roundtable conversations. It will carefully consider and debate Intellectual Freedom and Artificial Intelligence, and how Canadian libraries sustain their critical value of freedom of information in the evolving societal shifts. The day’s outcome will be a National Forum Paper informing CFLA-FCAB’s positioning.

Contribute with colleagues from across Canada in focussed dialogues that will consider some of the most critical challenges facing libraries. Contribute towards crafting outcomes that will advance the state of libraries and the Federation.

Here’s the program – with an important addition:

Bruce Walsh will be the keynote! Canadian publishing is @ the heart & soul of Canadian libraries, and Bruce is a respected leader and Canadian publishing visionary. His establishment of the University of Regina Press, championing of freedom of information, and appointment as a Trudeau mentor are incredible. As a Trudeau mentor he will talk with us about “building bridges between research and the public arena, fostering a better understanding of critical issues for Canada, and working toward sustainable solutions”. Never before has the library sector so needed sustainable solutions.



Walsh in the morning, Mohamed Fahmy at night and in between distinguished panels who will make our heads hurt and our brows furrow. 

Complete the registration form here.